Critiques of Justin Fields' work ethic met with strong backlash
Once the whispered criticism of Justin Fields' work ethic appeared, the backlash was swift and passionate.
Fields, Ohio State's former superstar quarterback, is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. But lately, his placement in mock drafts has been dropping, as analysts are picking quarterbacks such as Mac Jones, Trey Lance and Zach Wilson to be drafted before him.
The most glaring criticism of Fields occurred last week on "The Pat McAfee Show," when McAfee asked NFL analyst and former quarterback Dan Orlovsky why Fields has been dropping in mock drafts.
Orlovsky shared that — though he doesn't necessarily agree — some teams have expressed concerns about Fields' work ethic.
The divulging of that information was not well received, and though Orlovsky later tried to clarify his comments and even apologized to Fields on a private phone call, the backlash was swift.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day had quite a bit to say after hearing Orlovsky's comments, praising the quarterback for pushing the Big Ten to even have a football season.
FOX Sports' RJ Young also blasted the statements about Fields – regardless of where they originated – and went as far as to say that the 2019 Heisman candidate might be the best quarterback prospect to come out of Ohio State since Art Schlichter.
In the past 30 years, Schlichter and Dwayne Haskins are the only Ohio State quarterbacks to be drafted in the first round, with Fields preparing to be the third.
Young pointed out that after high school, Fields could have pursued a baseball career but chose the football path instead, a testament to his dedication to the gridiron.
Fields' path to this point was a scenic one. He first landed at Georgia, but transferred to Ohio State in 2019 and proceeded to have a breakout season, completing 67.2% of his passes for 3,273 yards and 41 touchdowns while throwing only three interceptions.
That season, the Buckeyes went 13-1, won the Big Ten championship, and earned a spot in the College Football Playoff.
The 2020 season also looked to be promising for Fields, who changed his diet prior to the year to become leaner and healthier.
Then, the Big Ten announced it would cancel the fall football season and play in the spring instead. Many parents, students, alumni and fans were disappointed with the decision, leading some to take a stand – including Fields.
Fields led a campaign entitled "#WeWantToPlay" in an effort to reverse the Big Ten's decision, even though he still would have been a high draft pick without playing the 2020 season.
After the conference decided to have a season after all, Fields put up big numbers once again, despite the difficulties presented by the pandemic, with the Buckeyes having three games canceled due to health and safety protocols.
In that game, Fields took a hard hit to the ribs from Clemson linebacker James Skalski, causing Skalski to be ejected and Fields to sit out for a play.
And while the pain bothered Fields for the rest of the game, but he threw a touchdown pass on his first play back in action and finished with six TDs and 385 yards.
When asked about the hit, Fields cited his love for his teammates as his motivation to finish the game.
Fields and the Buckeyes lost to undefeated Alabama in the national championship game before the QB's attention turned to the NFL draft.
And at Ohio State's pro day, Fields clocked an impressive 4.44 in the 40-yard dash.
In the wake of Fields' performance, NFL scout Matt Miller said Fields has the best speed, athleticism and arm strength in the 2020 quarterback class — over both Lawrence and Wilson, whom most draft analysts project to be taken with the top two picks.
As the draft approaches, it is uncertain whether the questions about work ethic will affect Fields’ draft positioning.
But if Fields should take anything from this most recent saga, it's that most of the football world – and Twitter – seems to have his back.
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